Breeding doves can be a rewarding experience. You can choose from about three hundred dove species originating from every continent. Some species are considered higher maintenance than others. For first-time dove owners, the American Dove Association recommends ringneck, diamond, and Barbary species. Because of their playfulness, gentle cooing, and relatively easy accommodations, doves make excellent pets. Most doves mate for life, and so aspiring dove breeders need only begin with one true committed pair.
Prepare your aviary. The dove shelter can be wired or netted, but it must be secure. Ensure that critters cannot access the birds, and the birds are not exposed to inclement weather. With doves, it is more important to provide greater length than height. Include various perches, a few open baskets, and plenty of twigs, hay and larger sticks for heavier dove species. Game Bird Gazette explains that doves generally prefer nesting in more exposed areas. Lidless shoeboxes or baskets are typically all you need to satisfy a dove's nesting requirement. Include a feeding and drinking station, but take care that it is placed in an easy-to-reach area, away from the nests. Stock the feeding station with a mix of pellets, leafy greens, and high-calcium shell or bone grit. You can enhance the standard feed with fruits, seeds, and other vegetables.
Determine the sex of your doves. A dove's gender is not always immediately apparent. Usually, the male will actively coo and strut during the breeding season, which varies from species to species. For example, the mourning dove's breeding season spans from February to October, while the African collared dove's breeding season varies radically according to its geographic location. In warmer, tropical areas such as California and Florida, dove breeding seasons are frequent and throughout the year. In other regions, explains Game Bird Gazette, doves only breed in the spring and summer. This is the easiest way to sex doves, but even then, it is not a foolproof method. After one breeding season, you can easily sex the doves by observing any resulting eggs. The lack of eggs would suggest that you have two males.
Once the young doves hatch, monitor the brood. Some doves make excellent parents, some ignore the hatchlings, and others vacillate between seasons. If your doves abandon their young, consider introducing a foster parent of a similar breeding stage. Doves will often "adopt" ignored squabs. You must continue monitoring the doves until the young doves successfully leave the nest. Sometimes the younger and older doves squabble. If this occurs, introduce the younger doves to a separate aviary.
If you are a first-time dove breeder, stick with the lower-maintenance species. Some species, like the golden-heart dove, are quite difficult to nurture. This can be a discouraging situation for an eager dove owner.
Always make sure that your doves have ample food and water. Without food, a dove can easily starve to death within a day. Don't relocate your doves during or right before breeding time. Doves take time assimilating with their environment, so a swift relocation can jeopardise a brood.